LIONEL BAWDEN, TEELAH GEORGE and GARY SMITH reveal a diversity of approaches to contemporary painting practices in three solo installations across the galleries of Artereal.
GARY SMITH: Alchemy
Alchemy is literally the transmutation of matter and Gary Smith’s latest paintings, primarily about paint, do nod to the Modernist Matter painters and their encrusted intense surfaces but are leavened with a fizz of infinity and light-play from tinted poured resin glazes and a mirror ground.
Their intense colour, viscous texture, gestural marks and a collision of optical effects are suggestive of a return to a way of abstract painting begun early in Smith’s career.
His painting path has taken him through sheer veils of layered transparent glazes for poetic celestial evocations of ‘atmospheres’ imbued with diffused light utilising ‘Old Master’ techniques of thinning and glazing, but writ large as pure painting in Smith’s works with their enigmatic Oriental ‘sensibility’ and stillness and silkiness of surface.
His subsequent bodies of work are still aligned with this reductive approach to painting that is distinctive of his oeuvre. Smith’s process of ‘slow looking’ unfolds the reflection of light and generation of surface meaning for both painter and viewer. Perceptions of light and of colour hover within what was often up to thirty layers of glazing and in Alchemy has evolved as multiple campaigns of dredging and scraping a terrain of thick gelatinous oil paint in spontaneous unpredictable, contradictory improvisations onto transparent and tinted mirror-board. A thin poured glaze of colour is the beginning for the layers of oil paint to be applied across the surface. This initial colour influences the progression and range of a muted or hectic pallet to follow.
Gary Smith has a strong interest in music having learnt the organ for many years since the age of 10 with recent focus on early Baroque and the ‘ad lib’ form of jazz of musicians like Keith Jarrett. With Alchemy he is exploiting the process of improvisation and the musicality of spontaneous composition and rhythms of place and put and cadence. His paintings are redolent of the creative rush, the silences, the percussive bang of a slab and slash of dense colour or dappled opacity against transparent riffs across the infinite depths of exposed tinted and lightly glazed mirror. Smith’s interpretative performance follows a given structure, notation and theme but each painting throughout the Alchemy series is a variation that progressively morphs and changes.
Currently Higgins and Smith are redeveloping the Vox Nautica: a light and sound installation work into a travelling exhibition hopefully to tour some of the regional galleries in NSW, or interstate with the support of Arts ACT.